Our Partnership With University of Colorado, Boulder


About University of Colorado, Boulder

QL+ Program Manager: Court Allen, USAF (ret)

QL+ Mentors: N/A

Faculty Advisor: Dan Riffell, Scholar in Residence, Mechanical Engineering

QL+ Project:

Race Walk Cane: Our Challenger is an Army Veteran who ran the Marine Corps Marathon in ’96. His goal is to race-walk it again this year, post injuries. He will need some type of crutch to complete it. He has PTS (Post Thrombotic Syndrome), because of a knee replacement. He also has a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). On a good day, this condition makes him feel like he is carrying a five-pound weight on his left ankle. On a bad day, he feels like he is carrying a fifteen-pound weight. The Challenge is to design and build a type of “crutch” for him that can withstand his height and weight while race-walking 26 miles, without causing more injury. There are shock-absorbing crutches available on the market. But, because of his height and weight, and the face that he needs a device to withstand the intensity of a marathon, these devices will not work for him. The device also needs to be weather-resistant and waterproof.

Faculty Advisor: Xiaoyun Ding, Assistant Professor, Biomedical, Micro/Nanoscale, Thermo Fluid Sciences

QL+ Project:

Wildland Firefighter Respiratory Protection: Wildland firefighting is a physically arduous occupation performed in extreme environmental conditions. These conditions include high temperatures, high concentrations of smoke and other pollutants, low humidity, and, often high altitudes. It is physically demanding work. As firefighting has evolved, so has firefighter protection. Unfortunately, wildland firefighters generally have no protection for their lungs. If they wear anything, it is usually a handkerchief. As a respiratory protection filter, it is completely useless due to its inability to occlude the mouth and nose and the large size of the pores. They sometimes wear N95 paper masks which when properly fit, will filter 95% of particulates 5 microns or greater. These masks do nothing to prevent inhalation of fine micro-particulates and various aerosols, gases, and other airborne contaminants such as the cancer causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

The Challenge is to create a Wildland Firefighter Respiratory Protection Device that has a prefilter system that easy to change; it must be lightweight and must not impede movement; the batteries must be long-lasting and easy to change; it must be durable and able to withstand rough terrain and handling, and being dropped; it should have a hydration pack incorporated into the device to pre-hydrate the air after it is filtered but before it is inhaled; and, the filtered air must not increase in temperature before it is inhaled. Possible additions to the device may be a GPS locator, a pulse oximetry, body temperature gauge, outside air temperature gauge, and a heart rate monitor.

Faculty Advisor: Christoph Keplinger, Assistant Professor, Mollenkopf Faculty Fellow, Materials, Mechanics of Materials, Robotics and Systems Design

Mentor: Jim Riley, Senior Programmer Analyst/ Engineer

QL+ Project:

Blind Skier Vibrotactile Guidance: According to the International Blind Sports Association, "Alpine (downhill) skiing is one of the rare opportunities available that allows the blind individual to move freely at speed through time and space. It provides the opportunity to embrace and commune with the primal force of gravity, thus experiencing the sheer exhilaration of controlled mass in motion, in a physically independent setting."

Blind skiers use a "safety skier guide." The guide is responsible for describing the surroundings, choosing the line of descent, and providing verbal instructions to the skier who is blind or has low vision. There are two primary ways to orient and guide skiers who are blind or have low vision: 1) The guide remains behind the skier, orienting the skier with verbal descriptions and instructions. This system requires wide slopes with few obstacles and, 2) The guide precedes the skier and provides orientation through verbal instructions as the skier follows the outline of the guide's body and movements. This system requires fewer precise instructions, since the skier primarily follows the voice and movements of the guide. The downfall is that the skier and guide cannot communicate/have a conversation, because the skier is concentrating on the voice commands.

There is a need for a non-verbal vibrotactile remote guidance system for skiers. The device must have a battery pack with enough current for the vibration/pulse to be felt in a vest under ski clothes. It must be durable and waterproof. It must work with the guide. It must not be voice controlled. It must not have loose wires or parts that could snag. The controls must be compact. The controls for the guide must not impede their own ability to ski and maneuver.

About University of Colorado - Boulder:

The goal at CU Boulder is to directly affect Colorado communities through collaborative research, innovation and entrepreneurship. The faculty, staff, and students work with the broader community to establish unique connections that have lasting outcomes—both across Colorado and around the world. Hands-on learning, advanced research, and an entrepreneurial spirit are defining the next generation of engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU). Students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering learn from a vibrant faculty conducting diverse research in consumer products, robotics, thermodynamics, energy, and the environment. They’re home to 1,200 students in undergraduate, graduate, and PhD programs.

CU Boulder offers world-class facilities and a partnership spirit with business and industry. It was ranked the #18th most entrepreneurial university in the nation by Forbes Magazine (2015). CU Boulder also has strong connections to multiple national laboratories located in Boulder, providing real-world research opportunities for students.